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News/Business. A focus on issues facing small business in the United States.

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Us 12, New York 3, Jeffrey 3, Paul 3, Marci 2, Llc 2, An American Express 2, Kingman 2, Christy 2, Mike Mcalowitz 1, Steven 1, Christy Arsey 1, William Dunkleberg 1, Infur Yates 1, John 1, Naegz 1, The Nation 1, Google 1, The Economy 1, Osama Bin 1,
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  MSNBC    Your Business    News/Business. A focus on issues  
   facing small business in the United States.  

    December 16, 2012
    4:30 - 5:00am PST  

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care, hiring were the source of many debate between the two parties. but the fallout seemingly has left owners worried and uncertain about 2013. the national federation of independent business's index was down to 87.5 in november. the lowest it's been since march 2010. what are small business nation owners worried about for the coming year? three familiar faces join us now. william dunkleberg, christy arsey and with us here in new york is john aarons-meyer founder and ceo of the small business majority. great to see you guys, all three of you. >> good to be here. >> good morning. >> we convinced john to come to new york this time. bill, christy, you guys are next. bill, i'm going to start with you. we is all saw small business optimism index has dropped.
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what do you see amongst the people that you talked to. >> we're seeing something different. we found small businesses are cautiously optimistic about the future. we now see unemployment at the lowest level it's been in four years. there are glimmers of hope. seven of ten of the small businesses that we polled, and it's a scientific poll across the country, not just of our membership. seven of out of ten say they're expecting the businesses -- they're plannin to hire and they expect the bitses e es busines grow in the next couple of years. they're very concerned about the middle class and the economy. it fuels their businesses and are looking for congressmen/president to step up and make sure that we keep the middle class tax cuts, that we keep programs and infrastructure programs that support keeping money in the economy. >> you know, you talk about the fiscal cliff and this is -- through so much of the election season, we talk about
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uncertainty and people are not able to plan in the face of uncertainty. christy, we're facing this idea of a fiscal cliff. after that, once this is resolved in one way or another, what do you think small business owners will do, the ones that you speak with? >> i think, you know, coming in 2013, a big issue will be tax reform. even though we're addressing the fiscal cliff, there's a big budget issue looming and tax reform will be a big component of that. what is that going to look like and what is it going to mean to the self-employed? then i also think health reform. the health reform law is here to stay. 2014 is that drop-dead date of when everything is going to be implemented. next year will be a critical year where we see everything that plays out and what it means in terms of cost of coverage which is the top most priority for america's smallest businesses out there. >> bill, with your survey that showed that pessimism, we had you guys for a little while shows things more optimistic, but now you've got back to where it was.
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what do you think will turn people's attitudes around, get them more optimistic again? >> well, i think we have to get consumers to be a little more optimistic. you notice the consumer optimism went into the tank, as well, last month. so if they're not spending, then, of course, there's not much we can do. we would be happy to hire a few million more people if we had customers to take care of, and that's not the case. so we've got a very dour outlook for how the economy is going to look. in fact, the november reading was the 10th lowest in our 37 years of surveying, our 350,000 members. so we don't really have a positive outlook for what's going to happen here. >> do you think, phil, this is because of on uncertainty and once things are resolved, that might change? or do you think it's because of something bigger than the uncertainty? >> uncertainty is worse than having certainty. on the tax rate side, business people look at the after tax
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return on investments or people and their businesses. of course, we don't know what tax rate we're going to use there. we have huge uncertainty about the cost of labor from the health care business or health care law. we don't know what that's going to be doing yet. we'll have to see how that works out. >> when you poll people, they seem more optimistic. why? >> i think people are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. but don't get me wrong, they are concerned, very concerned about the fiscal cliff. it's very important lawmakers in washington get this resolved. how do we get it resolved? we have to deal with the long-term deficit problem and therefore there's the entire issue of how we raise taxes on the upper brackets. that has very little to do with small businesses. we need targeted rate policies to keep the money in the hands of cop assumers. the payroll tax will affect people as it goes back up to
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where it was. there's an alternative minimum tax that continues to be index to inflation. and we need to make sure we don't cut spending programs that a lot of businesses rely on. >> but these people where these two big issues don't affect them, what are they concerned with? >> they are concerned about the fiscal cliff. they do want compromise, as you said. a majority of this segment, they really make a household income under the $250,000 mark that the president has put forth as a compromise in terms of keeping the tax cuts below that amount. what infur yates them is that these are business owners who have to make tough decisions every day in their business and they cannot understand why our policymakers can't seem to make the tough decisions to help move the economy forward and to help create certainty for businesses so that things can continue to improve. >> bill, what is your advice, if you have any, for small business
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owners going into 2013? is it invest in your company, this is the time to expand or is it, hey, hunker down for a little longer and save your cash? >> i think they have to hunker down and see how things are going. the idea that only 3% of the small business will be affected by the higher tax rates is really kind of misleading. if you drill down the numbers, there are around 900,000 small business owners who earned enough money to be affected by this tax hike and it is the small business sector of the economy that is going to continue to push ahead. the headwind res big, but we'll grow the economy and somebody will claim credit for all the hard work that the small businesses do out there. >> so we've had this debate many times on this program of john and then gene, your colleague, bill, about how many people the health care and raising taxes affects. interestingly, we were just speaking about a survey earlier to ask small business owners
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what do you care about most? and taxes came fourth out of four things that people talked about. and number one was getting customers. and so, while we sit here and we debate taxes and we debate these big picture ideas, really, people just want to get people through the door, spending money. and i'm going to ask you the same question, john, that i just asked bill. what do you suggest for small business owners? going forward, is this a time to invest in your business or is it a time to stay back, hang on to your cash a little longer? >> no, it is a time to invest in your business, but you need to do it cause cautiously, and it is important that government be there with all of us as we do that. it's very important that we have policies and programs that keep as much money as possible in the hands of the middle class, that we can't cut a lot of these programs slated to be cut with the fiscal cliff right now. and government needs to be taking an active role in sensing those industries that are industries of the future. for instance, the clean energy sector of our economy. so that is -- you know, that is
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where government can play a role. ultimately, it's going to be up to the business owners themselves and to have enough confidence to move forward. but there is a very positive role for government and government is seen making decisions. is this particular fiscal policy decision going to directly affect the small job creators in this country or is it not? >> thank you guys for ending 2012 with us. we will assuredly have all tloof of you back at the end of 13. thanks a lot and happy new year. the holiday season always brings in the biggest consumer sales across the naegz. but for seasonal businesses, it's also a time that can make or break their company. so what can they do to spread sales more evenly throughout the year? well, one north carolina clothing line that specializes in holiday pajamas for the entire family is figuring out how to do it. ♪ the pajama game
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is the game i'm in ♪ >> for amber and paul, thinking about christmas starts long before the first lights go up on a tree. >> 80% of our revenue comes in the fourth quarter. so we spend most of the year getting ready for christmas. >> neighbors and good friends, amber and marci kingman, paul's wife, started steps clothing out of their dining room in 2006. the idea was to create cute mother/daughter outfits. in the beginning, they had no idea some of those would do better than others. >> we had some dresses and shirts. however, the holiday line came as a surprise to us. we developed one of our designs, a very merry snowman. we matched it with cute pants and put that on the website i think in our second year. and it just sold like crazy. >> it sold like crazy the next year, too, and the year after that. soon, they had phased out almost everything but that holiday line.
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>> we have now about 15 different designs. we add on every year. >> with all of those sales, though, came a lot of challenges. marci's husband, paul kingman, who had a background in finance came on board to help. the issue with being a business that earns all of its revenue in one season is what about the rest of the year? >> being a seasonal business is difficult. building up that debt is risky during the first nine months of the year. it's a tough challenge to balance that and constantly not getting too concerned that you're building up this debt because you know the fourth quarter is coming. >> inventory is their biggest challenge. and what takes up the majority of their funds. >> we have 15 sizes within each design, from baby, three to six months all the way up to adult xl. >> but this isn't ideal. the footsteps clothing team agree they would sleep better at night if they didn't have to rely on so intensely on one part of the year. so they're trying to even out sales. they've added another holiday, some successful, others not so
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much. >> we've tried st. patrick's day, halloween, other, thanksgiving or other items that just didn't work, as well. mother's day is big for us. we have a lot of mother/daughter items. father's day is huge for us, bigger than mother's day, actually. >> but none of the holidays come close to the fourth quarter. so they've started to go back to the original plans, to be a company that celebrates all things family. >> we have our smacks pajama line for preteens, teens and college age which is a kiss me pajama and also our man cave designs for men who like to hang around together. so trying to access different customer pools to bring them all into our line. >> they've added customization to bring in the family reunion markets. and who can forget fido. >> people are saying, well, we have a dog who is part of our family. so we definitely listen to our
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customers and what they want and what they're desiring from us. >> amber is a dedicated blogger. she regularly posts entries that establishes footstep clothing as a line of families for a whole. >> we are all about families and family togetherness so i blog about that. i give tips on how to enhance your family time or if you are very, very busy how to get the most out of your family time. >> a lot of their downtime is making sure their company is the first to come up for any search that could lead to a sale. >> most guys are not going online and searching for matching shirts for my wife and my daughters. they're searching for a mother's day present. so it's get to go that. and amber focuses on looking online to see perfect key words and doing the search engine optimization that she needs to do to get them to draw to our website so that they find those items. >> and when they get a new sale, they make sure the buyer becomes appreciated and becomes a repeat
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customer. >> we have marketing materials that we leave with them and we feel they take that marketing material and bookmark us on the web and call us or think of us as mother's day and father's day or other times of the year. >> the company hasn't found the perfect formula to break off the title. but they're still trying and are quite sure they're going to crack the code. >> i think our potential is unlimited because families are always looking for more fun ways to spend time together. >> we've dealt with this question a lot over the past few years and it's a hard one. how do you sustain a seasonal business year-round? let's turn to this week's board of directors. jeffrey haze let is the het head of the hazelet group and author of "running the gauntlet." and mike mcalowitz is the founder of object obsidian
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launch. great to see both of you. >> good to be here. >> we've done this story around people who have haunted houses and people who run summer camps and all their business is in the summer. it's hard. these people seem to be doing a good job trying to braurchb out. but as i said in the end, they haven't quite cracked the code yet. what are they missing? >> i think they're trying to be both a manufacturer and a retailer. you can't be both. a manufacturer can manufacture for retailers. a retailer that focuses just on christmas could have an amazing pop-up store. i think they're struggling because they're doing two things at once. >> and go this far, what is the problem you're trying to solve? that's what you want to do as a business is fulfill a need. so they started out to be more of a family oriented company for families. then they went into this christmas pj thing, it was hot. they got into it, loved it and uh-oh, what do we do the other eight months? i think it's cool they're trying to get back to the roots. if they start to think about
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packaging the product up like family night where we all wear tee shirts and here is a puzzle that goes with it or here is some hot cocoa mix or here are some games you can play, they'll get back to their core. >> what's interesting is their core didn't work, right? it didn't work nearly as well as this christmas or this holiday theme. what's to say that that will work going forward? >> well, i think it doesn't work altogether. it did work before, it's just not everything. they found that 80% of the business came in the last quarter of the year. for more retail businesses, about half of the business comes during the last quarter of the year. so they just have a disproportionate share of that coming during that time. so what they have to do is find ways. maybe offer more incentives to buy the products early in the year. i would do that. give me half price off if i buy in july. christmas in july. >> i have to disagree with that. i would not do christmas in july. they say love your family and then they say a man cave shot? that doesn't seem like family. i'm not going to go with my guy
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friends down to my man cave. but if love your family is the strategy, they should focus on what family activities you do together. photography is the biggest one. photographers, that's where you get the picture altogether and you can do it and that can be year-round. >> and that's your idea of packaging. >> i want to go back to what you said about being a manufacturer and a retailer. do you suggest they manufacture elsewhere? >> totally. the cost of manufacturing is expensive. that's why you want to manufacture constantly. the cost to retail is inexpensive. that's why you want to retail constantly. pick one and become the world's best retailer. >> you know what i was thinking, too, is they have a perfect -- what they can do is what we always call here and we didn't make it up, but ready, shoot, aim. but basically they can try out new designs on their site without making them yet because inventory is so costly. >> well, you could if it's
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customized and that's one of the things they can do. there's a lot of other manufacturers and online companies that have customized tee shirts. i can order them for my family, for a retreat, for the office. not a bad idea to do that if they have a way to do it easily and turn it out quick. >> the idea would be testing it on your site before making them, seeing which ones stick and then you're not holding all this inventory for it. >> one of the things you can do is look at trends. starting trend mastermind, a circle of businesses that are before you. you sell christmas? who sells in thanksgiving? who does halloween and rewind around the circle to the other businesses. they can tell you what's coming down the pike for you. >> thanks so much, you guys. i hope we were helpful for them, but they're in the middle of their biggest season right now so they'll catch this in january. thanks a lot, you guys. inspiration can come from anywhere. here now are five must-read books that don't necessarily fit into the business book genre but may give a fresh outlook on the
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new year courtesy of ink.com. one, the power of habit. you probably have a lot least a few habits you would like to change. this book will show you how. two, so good they can't ignore you. the author sets to prove that follow your passion is bad advice. and instead, passion comes after you put in the hard work. number three, quiet. do you prefer to listen instead of speak or feel more creative when you're alone? this book will help you embrace and take advantage of help you those characteristic for not only yourself but your team. four, "no easy day." the mission to kill osama bin laden, you'll learn about leading and leading and following. this quick read will gich you the motivation to take your team to a higher level. and number five" hearts, smarts, guts and luck." this book h help you understand your personality and the way you make decisions. when we come back, jeffrey and mike answer your year-end
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small business questions. including how to choose the right marketing company. and we check back on our small business makeover subjects to see if the changes we suggested have brought them bigger profits. we've all had those moments. when you lost the thing you can't believe you lost. when what you just bought, just broke. or when you have a little trouble a long way from home... as an american express cardmember you can expect some help. but what you might not expect, is you can get all this with a prepaid card. spends like cash. feels like membership.
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company is called "fancy bridal" and things are pickic up with the guidance of the business experts. they moved their production from overseas and the dresses are
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made at a competitive cost right down the street from their showroom new york's garment district. steven moved back to new york to work on the business together and they took our social media advice introducing their tea length dresses to a whole new audience. they just shipped their biggest order to date to a major upscale retailer. in june, we we want tomas mass where ken and julie's contract accompanying synergy total home, was bleeding money. we worked with them on their name changing it to "howl and does worth remodelers." and overhaul their website. we also highly recommended they become an llc. unfortunately, the economy in their area has not picked up and work has been sparse so they've not had the money to advertise or file the llc papers and they've had to hire themselves out to short day jobs to
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supplement their business income and they're hoping that 2013 will be better. and in september, we paid a visit to erika hall, owners. erika felt stuck. she was so busy doing everything, marketing, accounting, cooking, cleaning, that she couldn't focus on growing her business. we decorated a room and now the inn's most popular. we redesigned her website. she's using google analytics and erika signed up for an online booking system we recommended. she now spends less time on the phone and more time running her business. it also helped her experiment with different rates for different times of the year and gage specific room pop layer did. all of this has resulted in an increase in bookings. time to answer some of your business questions. jeffrey and mike are with us once again. the first one say question about
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marketing your business. >> since i purchased this franchise i've been bombarded from numerous companies promoting their marketing services. how do you pick a good marketing company? >> the first question is, do you pick a marking company and then how. >> yeah, i think you can and you should. you ask for referrals. give me three referrals. i'll give you your three best. your oldest client, your newest clients and someone that decide not to proceed with you. that way you'll understand why someone sticks with them. why someone died decided to go with them and why someone decided not to. >> maybe you should go to the franchise network and ask those and then the other franchise owners because they utilize the similar kinds of services that to use that network you should go there first. >> great idea. and i started this, again, saying do you need one? oftentimes, do you have a budget for this? and can they do it better than you can do it yourself? i think that's a really
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important question to ask yourself. >> agreed. >> moving on to the next one an e-mail from kyle and he writes -- is there a better way to accept credit cards on line than the traditional payment gateway. >> absolutely. look at papal and all these other services. a million of them popping up. don't just think about that think about taking it as an e-mail and use square or one of the other knockoffs and do it manually if you want to do it but there's a lot of different ways. >> my answer is "maybe." high volume gateways are the best way to go. low volume, google or papal. >> and now a question about dealing with a potential customer misconception. >> how do i convince people that a web designer is an advertising person rather than an i.t. computer programmer? >> so this is an interesting question and it goes beyond what he's talking about which is how do you market your business, right? people have a preconceived idea object what you do, whatever it
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is. and in his case it's we be design. how do you sell what you do? >> this is easy. you cannot change customers perspectives so you don't tell them, let me tell you what a web designer really is. they have a preconceived notion so give it a label. you're an impact designer. that will get them to say, i don't know if that is and now you can pint out your differences. >> if they can't tell the difference between a web designer and an i.t. person. they are two totally different things. what's he able told about what he does want and what he did you want. that's clear. to get the pitch down better and he's showing off what he's doing. >> and the other question, is he talking to the right people? is he pitching to the right people if they're looking for an i.t. person and he's -- >> you would certainly hope he is. if he's not, don't you think you should be able to convey what you do and how much different that is from somebody else? that's a real simple thing to
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answer, i think so i just don't think he has the story. >> and exchange your name? >> and when you say i'm a first-impression designer. of course i do web design work, everybody does that. >> and mine costs a little bit more. >> absolutely it does. >> all right. mike jeffrey, thank you for that advice. very helpful. if any of you have a question just go to our website. the address is opened forum.com slash yo forum.com/your business. the website is open forum.com/you were business. or e-mail us questions and comments. the address is your business @msnbc.com. always looking for ways to run your small business more efficiently? check out our website of the week. mav maven link.com. you can keep track of multiple projects. collaborate with your team remotely through their real time
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messaging system and m get time, invoices from the desktop or cell phone. it interacts with quick books, papal and you can streamline all aspects of your assignment in one place. to learn more about today's show, just click on top forum.com/you were business. you'll find all of today's segments and web exclusive content with more information to help your business grow. you can also follow us on twitter. it's @msnbc your biz and don't forget to become a fan of the facebook. we've been honored to help you grow your business in 2012 and we have a lot more in store for you in 2013, including ways to become more efficient. happy holidays. remember, we make your business our business. we've all had those moments.
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when you lost the thing you can't believe you lost. when what you just bought, just broke. or when you have a little trouble a long way from home... as an american express cardmember you can expect some help. but what you might not expect, is you can get all this with a prepaid card. spends like cash. feels like membership. good morning from new york, i'm chris hayes. president obama will travel toll newtown, connecticut, to visit with the families of the shootings. the visit comes as several new facts have emerged about the shooting over the last day. the nation is now beginning to know the faces of those who died. officials yesterday released the
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names and ages of awful 26 of the victims at the school. of the 20 children who were killed, all were ages 6 and 7. in addition to the name and ages of the adults killed we have more details about somtd of their actions. victoria soto, a 27-year-old teacher was killed while protecting her children. police say adam lanza shot his way into the school and the state medical examiner celts the all the children were shot for than once with a sem automatic rifle, and this was one of three weapons. he apparently took the guns from his mother, who according to reports was a gun enthusiast. we have policy analyst ezra klein and columnist david siroda and host of khow radio. and goldy taylor and m